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Archive for September 9, 2022

Sept. 9, 2022 — The “other” revolutionary sports-labor event of the week

While the world of sports has been focused on the historic agreement between U.S. Soccer and its men’s and women’s player unions that was signed this week, there was a less-ballyhooed event for an American sports business when it comes to labor relations.

That was the announcement that thousands of minor-league baseball players have turned in authorization cards to allow players from Tuscon to Trenton, from Portland to Palm Beach, to join the Major League Baseball Players’ Association.

This will, I think, change the national pastime forever. And the thing is, the rich owners of the 30 major-league clubs only have themselves to blame. When MLB took over day-to-day control of the minor leagues a couple of years ago, a number of distressing changes ensued.

Entire leagues went by the wayside, such as the New York-Penn League and the Appalachian League. A number of cities either found themselves without a major-league affiliate, saw their teams retrench and rebrand as independent, or found their team moved down a division or two — a kind of involuntary relegation.

Jobs were cut; some 42 teams (meaning about 2,100 players) were axed. At the same time, working conditions for minor-leaguers have not improved. Travel for many of these players is by bus, with players making anywhere from $400 to $700 a week. And the pay scale is only for the season.

The lords of baseball are starting to feel pressure to change their ways. In the summer, MLB agreed to pay $185 million to settle a federal class-action lawsuit filed by minor league players who alleged minimum wage and overtime violations.

But that’s only about the contract

While the world of sports has been focused on the historic agreement between U.S. Soccer and its men’s and women’s player unions that was signed this week, there was a less-ballyhooed event for an American sports business when it comes to labor relations.

That was the announcement that thousands of minor-league baseball players have turned in authorization cards to allow players from Tuscon to Trenton, from Portland to Palm Beach, to join the Major League Baseball Players’ Association.

This will, I think, change the national pastime forever. And the thing is, the rich owners of the 30 major-league clubs only have themselves to blame. When MLB took over day-to-day control of the minor leagues a couple of years ago, a number of distressing changes ensued.

Entire leagues went by the wayside, such as the New York-Penn League and the Appalachian League. A number of cities either found themselves without a major-league affiliate, saw their teams retrench and rebrand as independent, or found their team moved down a division or two — a kind of involuntary relegation.

Jobs were cut; some 42 teams (meaning about 2,100 players) were axed. At the same time, working conditions for minor-leaguers have not improved. Travel for many of these players is by bus, with players making anywhere from $400 to $700 a week. And the pay scale is only for the season.

The lords of baseball are starting to feel pressure to change their ways. In the summer, MLB agreed to pay $185 million to settle a federal class-action lawsuit filed by minor league players who alleged minimum wage and overtime violations.

But that amount is about the size of a contract for a single star player in the majors. The collective wealth of owners is being questioned not only by fans, but by the government. Later this year, a U.S. Senate committee will be holding hearings on the matter.

It shouldn’t be difficult. With the major-league owners now collectively owning and running their minor-league outfits, there is an inherent responsibility to pay a fair wage. And now that a player union numbering several thousand people will be unionizing, there will be regrets about the owners’ power grab of a couple of years ago.